Who do you say that I am?

08-27-2017Pastoral ReflectionsFather Brian Manning

Our readings from the Old Testament and our Gospel this weekend both focus on the role of the one who holds the keys, or more so today the one who knows the passwords. We learn in our first scripture reading that Shebna, the holder of the palace keys at the capital, is in deep trouble because Isaiah delivers the bad news that Shebna is not a trustworthy. Isaiah tells him clearly that he will be thrust down and a new keeper will replace him. What caused Shebna's downfall was that he went along with the king's decision to form military alliances with other nations. This was expressly counter to the will of the Lord, for the joining of nations meant many bad things. It meant ultimately the dilution of the religion of Israel, the introduction of other gods and most importantly the betrayal of the covenant established on Mount Sinai and renewed with David. Thus the symbols of the office - the robe, sash, and key - would be placed on another's shoulders according to Isaiah. Bear in mind that the key of the House of David recalls the Davidic covenant, which would last forever.

In hearing our Gospel today, we learn about a small gathering in a kind of quiet, reflective time. Jesus and his disciples are once again on the road, but they are not being followed by a large crowd. Thus Jesus can easily and plainly ask a very important question.

Jesus now is able to turn to these men and asks what others say of him. The disciples respond that Jesus appears to be continuing the Jewish tradition and Scriptures for clearly he is a prophet. None of this is easy. When Jesus boldly and plainly asks what they think, it is Peter who speaks for himself and for all the others. He seems to have the undisputed role as leader, as Jesus' right-hand man. Peter does not only say what they had said recently, in the boat after the storm at sea had subsided: "Truly you are the Son of God" (Matthew 14:33). Peter's confession is much deeper and wider than what is simply said in a few words: "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16). Remember that the other evangelists also wrote of this incident, but Matthew alone gives us the story of Peter's commissioning in which his given name, Simon, is formally changed. This renaming is replete with meaning. Simon is called Peter, a word that means "rock" both in Greek and in Latin. And then he is given the keys; he is given the authority to loose and to bind.

At this point Jesus makes it clear that Peter is chosen because he is obedient to God's revelation. He is not the recipient because he is smart, wealthy, educated, clever, or tough. We know from all the stories about Peter that he is none of these; instead he is faulty and bumbling.

Jesus has sized Peter up correctly. He has seen his stride while taking into account his stumble. Recall that the Gospel passage from two weeks ago told us of Peter's doubt about his vision of Jesus on the waters, of Peter's own wavering steps and of his reaching out to be saved by Jesus. Peter was drawn up out of the waters then. More importantly, Jesus now reminds him, the Church he leads will face troubled waters, but it will last because the foundation is firm in Jesus Christ. Many things of the church change, as they should, but our foundation is always in Jesus Christ.

St. Rocco Festival

On behalf of the entire Parish and myself, I shout out a loud "thank you" to all who helped in various ways with the Saint Rocco Family Festival. From the many who labored in the preceding months, to the advertisers, to the staff, to the field day volunteers, to the set-up crews, to the breakdown and cleanup crews and the many who knitted or sewed or made beautiful ceramics for our raffles and those who labor quietly in the background doing so much. God sent us beautiful weather for this beautiful Parish event. A thousand "thank you's" to one and to all!!!!